Babymooning: Tips for Traveling Internationally When Pregnant6 min read
Planning an exotic babymoon but not sure if it’s safe or how to go about it? Traveling before the baby arrives is, at times, easier to do than after. As long as you and your baby have been healthy so far, there should be no issue.
Still, there are safety, comfort and logistical factors to keep in mind when traveling with a bun in the oven, so here’s what you should consider before, during and after your overseas sojourn by plane.
Preparing for Your Trip
1. Travel between weeks 14-32
Ideally, the second and third trimesters, or until about week 32, are ideal for travel. Some airlines may not let you fly after 28 or 32 weeks without a doctor’s note, and flying after 35 weeks is definitely not recommended, says Tijana Eby, a DTI Certified birth and postpartum doula and a childbirth educator in Marietta, Ga.
The first trimester is still considered dicey, as there is a higher incidence of miscarriage, so you generally want to take it easy. After 35 weeks, international travel may be ill-advised since you’re so close to the delivery date.
Weeks 14-32 are the ideal time, though that is airline-dependent. Check the airline’s website and get a doctor’s note with authorization to travel, if needed.
2. Plan for healthcare coverage
Take a look at the customs guidelines and visa requirements of your destination, just in case. This is usually not an issue, but some countries may not allow you to enter if you’re past a certain stage of pregnancy.
While this may not be written policy, entry decisions are at the discretion of customs officials. In the U.S. for example, Customs & Border Protection officers have the authority to allow or deny entry based on whether you are likely to become a ward of the government — meaning that the government must provide medical care because you do not have medical coverage.
As a health safety precaution and to avoid the risk of refusal of entry at your destination, the Centers for Disease Control advise registering with the U.S. embassy in the destination country, and consider purchasing supplemental travel insurance so you are covered for any pregnancy-related health issues that may arise, including giving birth on your trip.
3. Select a safe destination
If you are thinking about becoming pregnant or already pregnant, you’ll want to avoid places where you have a higher chance of exposing yourself to certain illnesses, such as Zika, which can cause birth defects.
Currently, there are no Zika outbreaks according to the Centers for Disease Control website, which has the latest travel health advisory information. In addition, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology advises pregnant women to avoid areas with malaria, another disease carried by mosquitos.
4. Choose an aisle or front-row seat
When booking your tickets, you’ll likely want to get the most space onboard as possible for maximum comfort.
The Federal Aviation Administration prohibits pregnant women from sitting in emergency exit rows, but you’ll still be able to get some extra legroom if you try to book in the front row of a section or an aisle seat.
Plus, an aisle seat allows you to easily get up and walk around or make trips to the toilet as needed without irritating your seatmates.
5. Pack for comfort
Aside from the pregnancy essentials, such as your prenatal vitamin, pack comfortable, loose clothing that lets your body breathe. Consider taking a pillow for additional lower back support to help maintain posture on the plane.
Supportive shoes such as padded slip-ons or sneakers are ideal, especially if they have a little extra room to accommodate feet swelling, Eby said. Pregnant women are especially susceptible to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a condition by which blood clots form in the veins of the legs and other areas of the body.
During Your Vacation
6. Stay hydrated
Drinking plenty of water is good for travelers and pregnant women alike, so when you combine the two, it goes without saying that staying hydrated is essential. This will also help reduce the risk of DVT. You can also opt for something packed with more electrolytes, such as coconut water, suggests Eby.
7. Get up and walk around
Pregnant women are especially susceptible to water retention, and since the leg position and inactivity can cause swelling on long flights, Eby recommends getting up and walking frequently. Wear a pair of compression socks to help reduce the incidence of swelling and risk of blood clots forming.
8. Maintain normal activity levels
Once you reach your destination, don’t start to experiment with your first yoga session on the beach, 10-mile hike, or scuba lesson if you’ve never done so before. At the same time, you don’t want to let yourself become a total beach bum either.
Eby recommends maintaining the same level of activity that you normally would at home. Don’t do anything more strenuous than you had been doing. If you normally go swimming, jogging, or hiking, you can continue to do so. Remember to listen to your body and rest appropriately.
9. Protect yourself from the elements
If you are going to be out in the sun, don’t forget to pack a mineral sunscreen that gives you a physical layer of protection from UV rays. Dr. Sabrina Sikka of the Cleveland Clinic in Florida notes that some studies have shown that physical sunscreens are superior compared to chemical sunscreens at protecting against UV rays without penetrating into the skin.
According to Sikka, the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide deflect UVA and UVB rays away from the skin. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, absorb into the skin and convert those UV rays into heat, which is later released from the body, she said.
10. Watch what you ingest
In general, pregnant women are advised to avoid many raw forms of meat and fish, such as sushi, because of the potential for these foods to carry live bacteria. When traveling, pregnant travelers should also be careful about the water they drink, as many developing countries do not have clean tap water.
Instead, opt for bottled water, even for basic hygiene such as brushing your teeth, Eby advises. The CDC reminds travelers that even ice is likely to be made from tap water, so this is best to avoid in developing countries as well (Instead, to cool off, order bottled or canned drinks directly from refrigeration, but without ice).
When it comes to food, use your judgment and consider the source of the food. If it looks questionable, it’s best to be safe and avoid it.
When You Return Home
11. Recover once you return
Once you’ve returned home, continue your normal regimen of self-care, but do add a little extra pampering to let your body recover. Eby suggests taking salt baths (not too hot!) to allow your body to detox. This would also help with any travel-related swelling, she noted.
If anything feels off, check-in with your healthcare provider.